Diving behaviour of lactating Antarctic fur seals

The diving behaviour of 11 lactating female Antarctic fur seals (Arctocephalus gazella) was recorded for a total of 254 animal-days at sea. Median and maximum dive depths for individuals varied from 8 to 19 m and from 82 to 181 m, respectively, and median and maximum dive durations from 0.75 to 1.17 min and from 2.8–10.0 min, respectively. Theoretical aerobic diving limits were exceeded on  20 m) by having slower rates of descent and ascent and by being confined to the mixed layer at the ocean surface, as judged by records of sea temperature obtained concurrently with records of depth. Dives were grouped into bouts, defined by inflexion points observed in the cumulative probability distribution of surface interval after probit transformation. Bouts (defined by preceding and succeeding surface intervals lasting 13–24 min) occurred within a diel pattern of diving activity, with 74–85% of dives occurring at night. The pattern of diving, in terms of division into bouts, showed greater differences between individual seals than did dive depth and duration. Dives tended to be shorter and shallower later in lactation. Most variation in diving behaviour between individuals was in terms of the proportion of available time spent foraging, bout frequency, and bout duration. The foraging strategy in the Antarctic fur seal is geared to exploiting prey within the surface mixed layer.


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Authors: Boyd, I. L., Croxall, J. P.

1 January, 1992
Canadian Journal of Zoology / 70
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